Fomapan Creative 200 – Film Profile

Fomapan Creative 200 – Film Profile

1800 1013 Josh Solomon

We’re back with another film profile, and since we’re smack in the middle of a series on home-developing black-and-white film we’ve decided to spotlight, you guessed it, a black-and-white film. But we won’t be messing about with chromogenic, desensitized C-41 film (sorry Kodak BW400CN and Ilford XP2). No, no, there will be no pretenders today. Today we’re shooting true black-and-white.

While we could’ve easily extolled the many virtues of Tri-X and HP5, or the grainless wonders of T-Max and FP4, we wanted to talk about something a little less obvious. Instead of visiting the familiar factories at Rochester or Sunderland, we’ll be taking a trip to the Czech Republic. We’ll shoot black-and-white the way they do it in Prague, and see if the continental Europeans are onto something.

Today we’re examining Foma’s Fomapan Creative 200. This oft-overlooked film remains one of the finest black-and-white films currently available on the market. And while it may not be for everyone, its many virtues will have certain photogs falling in love.

fomapan 200 creative film profile (2 of 2)[Words and images by Josh Solomon]

Avid shooters of Tri-X and its descendants may find that the name on the box doesn’t inspire much confidence. Fomapan Creative 200? If we’re honest, it sounds a bit like an unwanted film you’d find hanging dust-covered at the drug store checkout. But let’s break it down and see if this book is better than its cover.

First word: Fomapan. What’s a Fomapan, you ask? Who is Fomapan? No, it’s not made by Kodak, nor Ilford, Fuji, or any of the recent crop of super-popular, small-batch film manufacturers. But while many of us may have never heard of the film before, believe it or not Fomapan has been around since 1921. In fact, Foma has long been one of the major extant producers of photographic materials in continental Europe, alongside Agfa, and seems to be quite strong in the present day. Even as photo geeks have waved goodbye to Ferrania, Efke, and others, the shelves have always somehow been stocked with a few rolls of Foma.

Next word: Creative. An unfortunate move by Fomapan. It’s a word that imbues as much, if not significantly less, than the Nike swoosh on your shoes. If you can’t play ball, you can’t play ball. And if you can’t create, then you can’t create. Just as no shoe can make you jump as high as Michael Jordan, neither can a film be more creative than others, or more ludicrously, make a photographer more creative. Stop pulling our chain, Fomapan marketing guys.

And the final component of the name on the box, 200; a number that, in film speed at least, screams of indecision. Not slow enough for ultimate sharpness, not fast enough for eye-popping contrast and grit; it’s Charlie Brown in a film canister. It’s khaki in the form of silver halide crystals. It’s the official film speed of “good enough”.

Snap judgement? We’re looking at a film from a comparatively small-time company at a “whatever” speed sold with a promise of magical creative stimulation. Sounds unappealing, right? Great, because your disinterest means there’ll be more Fomapan for me.


The truth is that Fomapan Creative 200 is capable of so much more than the name suggests. If we throw away our initial book-cover judgements, we find a film that produces images that other films just can’t. It’s not for everybody, but for those of us lucky enough to know, it’s a perfect film. So what is this quality and where does it come from?

Foma 200 is a child of the new age, or at least a more modern age. Its emulsion rather deftly combines traditional grain structures (Tri-X and HP5) with so-called T-grain structures (T-Max, FP4). What we get, instead of a mediocre midpoint between the two, is a fantastic marriage of the two philosophies. We get a lot of the grit from the traditional films without sacrificing the sharpness found in newer ones. The result is a film that’s appropriate for pretty much any scenario. Sharp landscapes? No problem. Dreamy portraits with a touch of that sweet grain? Sure. This film can do all that and more without breaking a sweat.

A visit to the many photography-related forums on the internet will tell you about Fomapan 200’s true speed. Many suggest exposing at 160, while some will tell you to go all the way down to 100. I personally have never had many issues exposing at box speed, but I tend to err on the side of overexposure whenever I shoot negative film with a lot of latitude. All told, one should feel confident in exposing this film at box speed.

As touched on before, ISO 200 seems rather lukewarm, but the risks often associated with shooting such a film simply aren’t present. Rather than being a rigid guideline, the box speed of ISO 200 more accurately refers to the sweet-spot in the middle of the film’s exceptional latitude, which Foma’s website claims is 100-800 before we see any change in exposure. Pretty impressive, and doubly so coming from a shooter who regularly pushes Tri-X to the heavens for low-light work. And boy, does it deliver.

Madison Bergman Style

Some of my best low-light shots have come from this film, and it’s all due to the film’s exceptional latitude and unique rendering. For example, the shot above was rather surreptitiously shot in a dark music venue in downtown LA. At box speed with available light only, we can see the film performed admirably, even though my light meter said that I was underexposing and that I was going to die as a result.

I decided on a shutter speed and aperture that would at least expose something on the negative. 1/30th of a second, f/1.4, a small prayer, and then the silky smooth shutter release of my XE-7. I opened the file in Lightroom days later and my jaw dropped. The negative was beautiful, and it cut out nearly everything going on in the background that wasn’t directly lit. It was as if I had meticulously lit the scene and planned everything out, but really it was as close to a snapshot as you could get. Had I shot this with a faster film, I would have had to deal with a busier background.

What’s even more remarkable is the tonality and the detail of the film. The mid-tones look perfect straight from the scan, and nothing is blown out. The shadow detail looks to be just right and even in high contrast situations no information is lost, allowing for effortless editing. A remarkable amount of detail is allowed to be resolved (with help from my fantastic Minolta MD 50mm f/1.4), the grain doesn’t lower sharpness, and there’s just something about it. It doesn’t have the signature pop of Tri-X, but it’s not flat either.

Sunken City

And herein lies the strongest asset of the film. It’s absolutely, unapologetically, old-school. Even though its makeup tells you otherwise, this film produces that wonderful lower-contrast effect we see in older black-and-white photographs. Even more, it produces this look with an added bump in sharpness, but not enough to jolt us back into the modern age of clinical films.

Everything I’ve ever shot with this film has a kind of vintage photojournalistic look to it, a look that was a big part of the images that made me fall in love with photography.
It’s tough to quantify this, but the quality of images made with Fomapan Creative 200 remind me of those made by one of my favorite photojournalists, Josef Koudelka, who shot many famous photos of the 1968 Prague Spring. Could his camera (an Exacta, I believe) have been loaded with Czech-made cinema film cut from the ends of exposed movie reels? Who can say. But I see a lot of the same spirit being carried through in this film, and that’s a look I’ve long been searching for, and a look that I’ve been unable to find from any film from any manufacturer. That is, until now. Fomapan, I applaud you.

For those of you who develop your own film, there are a few things to consider. In regards to film curl, this is actually one of the most well-behaved films I’ve encountered. It’s certainly better than Tri-X in this regard, which I have to smash between a couple of textbooks for days after drying before it will flatten. But remember that Fomapan benefits greatly from a 2 to 5 minute pre-soak to prevent curl, and proper hanging will help things along as well. Follow this advice and you’ll have compliant negatives for your scanner holder.

Also worth mentioning is that the film uses a blue polyester base that washes away during development, so don’t be surprised when blue-black slop comes pouring out of your jug. If you value the shelf-life of your fixer, do yourself a favor and pick up a funnel with a built in strainer. It’ll catch all of the waste and you can throw it away afterwards.

For all of the praise I heap upon Foma 200, there are a couple of considerations for shooters looking to get a do-it-all film. This film, while good for general-purpose photography, is only going to get you a very specific look that may not work in all applications. Some people may not like the lower contrast and lower dynamic range compared to the big-name films. Some may not like the old-school look, which, to be honest, can wear thin after a couple rolls. Sometimes I want a little more of that grit and contrast or a little bit more of that creamy smoothness. But then again, variety is the spice of life, and luckily there are still loads of spices to choose from.


If you want razor sharp results to show off the capabilities of your gear, you may be more taken with the T-Grained films, and if you want super speed pick up some Tri-X, some HC-110, and go nuts. Or load up some Delta 3200 and do your best Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler impression. Fomapan Creative 200 will do a lot, but it will do it in its own way and within its own parameters. That said, it’s capable of a great deal and won’t let you down if you work with it.

For whom is this emulsion best suited? I’d say it’s mostly for those who prefer classic looking images and shooting with mechanical machines. Loading Foma into an autofocus SLR wonder or a super-automated point-and-shoot just feels a little wrong. Sure, you’ll have tack sharp images and all, but this film just doesn’t strike me as being for those particular machines. Now, if you load it into a classic mechanical standby like Nikon’s F or a Minolta SRT, this film will be right at home.


The look is a little dated, but that’s the whole beauty of it. And since the only way to get images from the 1960s is to shoot expired film from the era (which is often a crapshoot) the fact that Fomapan affords us much the same opportunity without any of the risk is a wonderful thing indeed.

The film keeps a certain spirit alive, just like our classic cameras do. Sure, we can get sharper and more capable films just the same as we can get better lenses and more clinically perfect cameras, but we keep coming back to the old stuff for a reason. Much of that comes from a certain look, and images made with Fomapan 200 have that look in spades.

Is Fomapan for you? Do you secretly wish to live a life of mid-20th century photojournalistic intrigue? Or do you just yearn for something other than the standard black-and-white fare? There’s only one way to find out.

Buy Fomapan Creative 200 on eBay or Amazon

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon
  • I’ve had very mixed results with Fomapan 200, mostly unsatisfactory and have encountered some of the bad batches of emulsion, which is a known issue with this film. On the other hand Fomapan 100 is one of my favorite films. I get great results developing it in Fomadon LQN.

    • Hi John! Sorry to hear you’ve had mixed results with the film. Personally i’ve never run into a bum roll of the stuff, but I know it was a problem a few years ago. Glad you’re enjoying Foma 100 though! That’s a fantastic film.

      • It could have been something I did, who knows… Great photos by the way and keep up the good work with this site.

    • Just came across your comment. I had serious issues with anomalies using the Retro 200 in my 1937 Zeiss Ikoflex. Wrote the company and they said it was the interaction of the metals from that time with the soft emulsion. I had black dots and lines in many of the rollls. They said the emulsion is made differently than their other speeds.

  • Great article and images. I like Fomapan 200 and have had some good results with Kodak D76 developer.

  • the6millionpman April 3, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Pretty much all my black & white film photography is shot on Fomapan (although the classic 100 variety). I think for the price point it’s an incredibly good value film.

  • Quite a nice aesthetic, I don’t usually appreciate grain that much but overall the images you’ve posted aesthetically pleasing

  • massartarchitecture April 4, 2016 at 12:59 am

    Nice story, Josh. You’ve convinced me to break out of my HP-5 / Tri-X habit and give Fomapan a shot. By the way, I’ve enjoyed reading your site. I appreciate the high-quality writing and images.

    • Thanks for reading! Glad I could be of service. And thank you so much for the kind words about the site! I feel privileged to be a part of it.

  • Great post! This is my go-to film when getting a “new vintage” camera and it hasn’t let me down yet. The wide latitude is good for really old cameras with limited exposure controls while giving a nice classic look. It also cuts down easily from 120 to 127 and 828 for anyone who likes shooting these old formats. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Adam! Real glad to hear you’re keeping those old formats alive. You’re doing the world a fine service.

  • Ľubomír Brindza (@Halkotron) April 11, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    So far I’ve only shot Fomapan in 100 and 400 varieties, and skipped over the 200, probably owing to the neither-here-nor-there ISO rating. I’m fresh out of both right now, though, so maybe I’ll add a couple rolls of creativity in my next order.

    One of the few perks of living in central Europe is being able to buy directly from Foma’s e-shop, which has helped keeping my film-related expenses in relative check.

  • Great article! I’ve had excellent results from Foma 200 and X-tol on my Nikon F-100 (oops!).

  • Interesting article. I’ve just printed from several rolls of the Arista version of the film, EI 125 and processed in 1:50 Rodinal. Grain was surprisingly fine and the tonality nice using a grade 2.5 filter on Ilford MG IV paper. While I mostly use 400-speed films for the street and documentary work that I do, I think that there’s a place for the FOMA/Arista 200 film in my repertoire.

  • Thank you for that very interesting review. I was trying to make up my mind which B&W film to take with me to Myanmar (Burma), where I am doing a classic car rally next month. I will be taking my Leica SL for digital, with the standard 24-90 f2.8 lens and probably a 50mm/f0.95 Noctilux but also my 1950’s Reid & Sigrist III/T2 (a post-war British built version of the pre-war Leica IIIB but even better made) using a Leica Special Edition 1999 year thread mount version of the series V 50mm/f2 Summicron lens. From a trip to Myanmar earlier this year, I know lighting conditions are often difficult, with very hard light and dark contrast, so I was even thinking of using Kodak Portra 160 to calm the contrast down and then scanning to B&W. However your review has made up my mind and I will take 10 rolls of Fomapan 200 with me. Wilson

  • Bloomin’ Uterus February 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    *squee* just ordered a few rolls of Fomapan 200 and your article is making me so excited to bust out with the camera again! It’s been yeeeeaaarrrss and I have no idea what I’m truly doing – making the adventure all the more fun. 😀

  • Excellent post, I’m just about to try some Fomapan 200 in my OM2n, which is made for shooting this type of film. I also love the classic old look, it’s the main reason I shoot film. Have you tried stand developing with this film? just wondered how that might work out?

  • I have a different experience with Fomapa 200. Very grainy (way more then 400 ISO films from Ilford and Kodak), collects lots of dust and dirt (tons of tiny black spots after dev). scratches easily. Foma may be cheap but when I include my time removing dirt and scratches in Photoshop, Kodak and Ilford are a betetr deal …

  • Foma 200 is a great film. I use it in both 35mm and large format. In 5×7 it is one of the most economical films available. For a mind blowing experience, develop it in Pyrocat HD, 1.5:1.5:100 for about 12 minutes.
    Absolutely incredible tonal range in 35mm, and your large format negatives will have a quality about them you’ll have to see to believe.

  • Loved all your Foma reviews, really funny to see how the company goes about different iso’s and grain structures – it’s kinda charming in my eyes! 200 t-grain? 100 cubic? Yeah whatevs, just grab a 50 feet roll for 20 bucks hahaha. Any plans to complete the trinity with a Foma 400 review? 😉

  • The name “creative” refers to its intended use. 100 is called classic for traditional use like portrait or landscape and 400 is called action for use with fast shutter speed. 200 is creative because it allows you both.
    I shoot a lot with Fomapan 35mm and medium format as well as double 8mm which I can only afford thanks to Foma!

  • leicalibrararian April 14, 2021 at 11:11 am

    I have now tried all three of the mid range Fomapan films, the 100, 200 and 400. The 200 is I think, the stand out film. It seems to have little more grain than the 100 but much less than the 400. It has excellent contrast without the blockiness and dead black shadows of Adox Silvermax. The 100 ISO film is nothing special and is IMHO overshadowed by both FP4 and Adox CHS-II. The 400 is grainier than Tri-X and less flexible if you want to push. Fomapan 400 is a little cheaper than Tri-X or HP5 but not enough to warrant its use, by the time you have factored in processing.


  • I’ve discovered that there are only 2 developers that are well suited for this film. Gasoline and Lighter fluid at 1:1.

  • I shot Fomapan 200 for the first half of 2021 and really learned to appreciate it for what it is. A film you can experiment with, either pushing or pulling and trying various developers. I liked it best at box speed developed in Rodinal 1+50.

  • Cheyenne Morrison April 27, 2022 at 2:38 am

    Hi Josh, great review except for the fact Josef Koudelka shot ORWO film for his famed “Prague Spring” series. Reputedly he used outdated cine stock and had to reload cassettes in his Exakta VX 1000 (with Flektogon 25mm lens) at his apartment between rolls. I think from the look of the shots he was shooting Orwo UP 27 cine film.

  • My experience with Foma films has not been good and I would certainly recommend someone to stay away from them. During the pandemic, I got my darkroom back in order. Because I am retired and on a budget, I thought I would try a 100ft roll of Fomapan 400 in 35mm and a pack of 200 Fomapan in 4×5. Fomapan 400 was the worst film I ever used in my entire 55 years of photography. The film is nowhere its rated box speed. Development is always iffy. Halation is terrible. The film always dries with spots no matter what you do. Foma 200 even in 4×5 is really bland. Contrast is acceptable but barely. Every negative comes out scratched. Must come that way from the factory. I wrote an email to Foma asking why their product is so poor. They basically told me not to develop it in ID-11 or D-76 even though it is on their tech sheet. As far as the film speed. It was yeah we’re lying (they said it nicely). Thankfully, I ran out of the roll of 400 and switched to Kentmere. What a revelation. Now when I open the development tank, there are nice usable negatives. No hit and miss as with Foma. I really wish Kentmere made 4×5 negatives!

    • Did they say which developers they *do* recommend for their films?

      • Yes, they recommended Microphen, Fomadon LQN, and Fomadon R09. They claimed the film ISO was 320 to 200 for Fomapan 400 and 160 to 200 for Foma Creative 200. My experience is that those higher ratings are wishful thinking ( I am being charitable). The lower ratings (ratings of half advertised film speed) are closer to the truth.

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Josh Solomon

Josh Solomon is a freelance writer and touring bassist living in Los Angeles. He has an affinity for all things analog. When not onstage, you can find him roaming around Southern California shooting film and humming a tune.

All stories by:Josh Solomon